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 Post subject: Malaysia - East and West. 2017
PostPosted: May 16th, 2017, 2:24 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:30 am
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Location: U.K.
My wife and I have recently returned from a visit to Malaysia. We flew out to KL on the 28th February and back to the UK on 10th April 2017. The trip was arranged to include locations that we had somehow failed to visit on previous trips, such as Taman Negara and Fraser’s Hill in Peninsular Malaysia, and some parks in Sarawak. Our itinerary changed frequently during the six weeks as we shuffled accommodation and dates on line. The joy of using a website such as Booking.com to reserve rooms meant we could cancel bookings at the last minute without losing a deposit. Our three internal flights were made with Air Asia and I recommend them highly – cheap, clean and punctual. The only criticism that the in-flight snack, marketed as a ‘Picnic pocket’, is basically mulched vegetable peel served in a lukewarm manila envelope.


The trip report follows in chronological order.


Kuala Lumpur

Three things are immediately apparent when arriving in KL.
1. Isn’t it busy
2. Isn’t it hot
3. The Petronas Towers are quite big.

To combat Points 1 & 2 we spent most of our first couple of days doing starfish impressions in the oversized hotel pool, only emerging onto the streets after dark to wander off in search of cheap food. In respect of Point 3 both Sue and I agreed that the Petronas Towers weren’t as tall as they used to be. However, that could be a result of the numerous new office blocks and cranes, which are now shouldering into view on a skyline that was once the sole domain of the lanky, silver twins.


Kuching

The City of Kuching is situated in the south-west corner of the state of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. Since our last visit they had spruced the place up and built themselves an enormous State Assembly building on the north bank. It also seems the city had selflessly undertaken the storage of the whole regions used plastic bottle collection in the waters of the Sarawak river.

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Kuching State Assembly building – it’s huge.


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Keep the River Clean! – Bigger sign needed.


A glimpse of Kuching...

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Shoe Repairs.


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Flat-tailed house gecko (Hemidactylus platyurus) sneaking a fizzy drink in Kuching park.



We based ourselves a mile out of town at Basaga and it proved to be a good choice. Delighted to find we had been upgraded to ‘The Honeymoon Suite’ (38 years too late!) Even happier to discover the outdoor area had a resident Praying Mantis in one of the pot plants.


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Praying Mantis


Keen to try out my brand new LED Lenser head torch I spent time after dark stalking around the grounds blinding other guests and burning holes in the undergrowth. (Those torches are powerful.) I did turn up a couple of immature Toads which were coal black in colouring rather than the usual ‘toad colour’ found in the adults.


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Common Sunda Toad/Spectacled Toad/Asian Common Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)



We were both pleased to be finally able to meet the local celebrity – Hans Breuer, and what a nice bloke he is. His advice on the Sarawak area was invaluable. He showed us around and took us to some of the local street restaurants. It was enjoyable to see the reactions of the waiters who clearly knew Hans. On his approach they hurriedly cleared protesting diners from their tables and called in extra staff members from home. One dish that landed on our table – Oyster omelette, still revisits me now when I wake from a deep sleep.



Batang Ai

The National park at Batang Ai is around 250 Kms east of Kuching. We made the 4 hour road trip from Kuching in the hope of seeing some wildlife. The road was a little bumpy and some of the potholes were big enough to have an echo. Indeed, our hire car company tried (in vain) to double our security deposit and increase our insurance when they heard where we were heading. The closest we came to adding our own dents to the car was as I swerved into the path of oncoming traffic to circumnavigate a Spitting Cobra that was suddenly weaving over the road in front of us. With hood raised and angry expression, the big black snake turned back as it reached the centre of the road and was back into the long grass on the verge by the time we had pulled over to try for a photo.
Aiman Batang Ai was a disappointment. It was mainly geared for groups of travellers and sunk most of its time and resources into providing Longhouse Tours. No one on site could tell us anything about the wildlife surrounding our resort. When we asked where we could get into the forest on our own we were told we would have to hire a guide. Giving the organisation a chance we regretfully booked an afternoon jungle walk with a guide.

Norris – pronounced ‘Shnorrish’ – was clearly suffering the effects of his day spent leading a gaggle of Chinese tourists on a tuak embalming tour at a nearby longhouse. He unsteadily led us along a well trodden path into the forest. The chances of spotting anything were diminished by Norris’s loud conversations on his mobile phone and radio whilst he puffed frantically on a cigarette. When at one stage I asked what bird we could hear calling in the distance Norris squinted through his bloodshot eyes and after a few seconds thought replied – “In Iban we call this ‘tree bird.” It was a catch phrase we used for the remainder of our holiday.



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Batang Ai, Sarawak.


The hotel was arranged to resemble a native long house with vast wooden corridors and verandas. Gekko monarchus were common and grew fairly large. Their 'small yapping dog' call was frequently heard.


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Deserted corridor at the resort. Home to wildlife, mainly bats and geckos.


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Spotted House Gecko (Gekko monarchus)


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Flat-tailed house gecko (Hemidactylus platyurus)


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Sleepy Bat.


The open design of the buildings meant there were always bats present. Hanging asleep during the day and flying close enough to cause a draught on our faces every night. One evening, as we sat eating, a couple of bats continually swooped between us and just above the table top - it made for an interesting meal.


Some night time finds...
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Grass Frog (Fejervarya limnocharis)


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Amplectant Grass Frog (Fejervarya limnocharis)


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Corrugated Frog (Limnonectes laticeps)


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Four-clawed Gecko (Gehyra mutilate)


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Black Spider.



Kubah

The hardest thing about getting to Kubah National Park is trying to negotiate the confusingly complicated website to book accommodation. In the end our chalet was big enough to house several families and we rattled around inside on our own. In fact we stayed for two nights and in that time could count other visitors we saw on one hand. The man at the entrance booth was cheerful and gave us lots of information about where to spot wildlife and in particular frogs. Our days were spent hiking various trails and finding little. The forest is lovely here and the trails well marked.


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Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella). This lizard watched us from the bushes outside the hut.


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Malayan Soft-shell Turtle (Dogania subplana) Photographed during the day at the frog pond.


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Bats in the Pondok at the frog pond.


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Waterfall at Kubah National Park.


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Black Banded Ground Skink (Eutropis rudis) found near the waterfall.


The first of the two nights was virtually rained off. A storm moved in as it was getting dark and shook the windows in its intensity as it passed overhead. It stopped raining for about 20 minutes and then began again – a pattern that repeated itself throughout the night. We gamely struggled up to the famous frog pond but visibility was poor. Fair to say more was heard than seen. On our second night the storms stayed away and we enjoyed our night walk immensely.


Kubah night time sightings...

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Stick Insect.


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Millipede


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Orange Spider. Found at Frog Pond.


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Kuhl’s creek frog (Limnonectes kuhlii)


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Borneo eared frog (Polypedates otilophus)


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Borneo eared frog (Polypedates otilophus)


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Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)


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Harlequin Flying Frogs (Rhacophorus pardalis)


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Dark-eared Treefrog (Polypedates macrotis)


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Western Torrent Frog (Meristogenys jerboa)


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Giant River Frog (Limnonectes leporinus)


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Copper-cheeked Frog (Chalcorana raniceps)


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Matang narrow-mouthed frog (Microhyla borneensis). When photographing this tiny, triangular frog I didn’t immediately realise it was actually a pair in amplexus. This species lives much of it’s life cycle in and around a certain pitcher plant - Nepenthes ampullaria.


Another life form found around the clump of Nepenthes ampullaria...


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Red-bellied Keelback (Rhabdophis conspicillatus)


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Red-bellied Keelback (Rhabdophis conspicillatus)



Apart from the frog pond the highlight of the evening was watching a family of Civets (Small-toothed Civets I think), clambering about in the trees above the path. It appeared to be a mother and two cubs which she eventually carried to safety in her mouth, away from our torch beams. She even treated us to a spray of her delightful perfume which cleared every sinus for several days.



Borneo Highlands Resort

BHR came recommended (thanks Hans) so we altered plans and included a one night stay. In hindsight two or three nights would have been better. Situated at 1000 metres above sea level the extensive and stunning grounds hold some great wildlife spotting opportunities and possibly one of the most spectacular views I have ever witnessed. With a jungle and cloud covered Kalimantan stretching as far as the eye can see. Once again we appeared to be the only guests. Getting into the forest at night was not a problem.


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Kalimantan view.


A couple of strange daytime finds...

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Planarian Flatworm


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Stick Insect (Orthonecroscia pulcherrima) a couple of these flew onto the grass as we were out wandering around the grounds.


And some nightime creatures...

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Green Paddy Frog (Hylarana erythraea)


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Lowland Dwarf Toad (Pelophryne signata)


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Lowland Dwarf Toad (Pelophryne signata)


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Cat Gecko (Aeluroscalabotes felines), strange creature.


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Dwarf Slender Toad (Ansonia minuta)



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Dwarf Slender Toad (Ansonia minuta)



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Large White-Lipped Frog (Chalcorana megalonesa)



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Marbled Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus)


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Brown Tree Frog (Rhacophorus harrissoni)


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(Epidares nolimetangere)


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Giant Stick Insect.


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Stick Insect .



I try not to have specific targets when away but I dreamt often of finding Megophrys nasuta. After missing it at Kubah I thought the best chance had passed. When a single round eye shone in the undergrowth I couldn’t quite work out the owner. The closer we got, the more confusing the thing became. Not until I was virtually nose to nose with the frog did I realise I had been looking at a profile view of Megophrys. It was probably my favourite find of the whole six weeks. Sue said she couldn’t remember me being that happy when our children were born!

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Long-nosed Horned Frog (Megophrys nasuta)


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Long-nosed Horned Frog (Megophrys nasuta)



Finally a couple of Borneo Highlands frogs I am having trouble identifying.


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Frog One


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Frog Two

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Frog Two again.


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Frog Three.



Permai Rainforest Resort at Santubong.


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A Hidden Danger – Crocodiles. We didn’t find any but local’s told us they haul up onto the mud at the mouth to the inlet at Santubong.


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Santubong Beach at low tide.


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Common Sunda Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) displaying more toad like colouring.


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Bearded Pig on the Beach at Bako NP.



Although we had stayed here previously, the thought of another couple of nights in a tree house were too much to resist. It proved to be the most productive of sites with a total of 11 different snakes sighted in the first 24 hours. It mattered little that 5 were Vine Snakes and 4 Keeled Pit Vipers. Night time jungle walking was easy and there is plenty to do and see during the day.


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Waterfall at Permai.


Home to...
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Black-spotted Rock Skipper (Staurois guttatus)


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Colugo – one of three individuals seen at Permai.


Pit Viper number one turned up within 20 metres of our tree house steps. Coiled within striking distance of a path handrail it was in this location for hours before one of the staff gently moved it to a quieter area.
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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number one


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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number one.


Pit Viper two was also found within 20 metres of our steps but in the other direction. We noticed a German lady crouched over with her camera trying to get a photograph. When we went to look it was a small snake about six inches off the ground. We must have walked past it several times without spotting it.


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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number two.


Pit Viper three’s location was passed by a staff member who knew of our interests. It had been coiled in the same location for three days, next to a notice board. It took a couple of minutes for us to find it with directions.


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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number three.


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Bornean Keeled Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number three.


The final Pit Viper came at breakfast. Sue found it only seconds after grumbling that she hadn’t found a viper yet. It was coiled in the centre of a leafy plant next to the restaurant balcony.


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Bornean Keeled Green Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) number four.


One of the Whip Snakes found was quite different to the others. It had a pale blue nose and chin. Not colouring I had seen before.
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Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina)


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Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina)


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Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina)


A Keel-bellied Whip Snake was also spotted from the restaurant balcony. Unfortunately it was some way into the bushes and I could only get a couple of quick photos before we lost sight of it. This was a new species for me.

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Keel-bellied Whip Snake (Dryophiops rubescens)

Some of the Permai night time finds...


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Blue-eyed Angle-headed Lizard (Gonocephalus liogaster)


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I think this is an adult Gonocephalus liogaster.


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Blue-eyed Angle-headed Lizard (Gonocephalus liogaster)


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Not sure yet on this one.


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Marbled Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus)


This Keelback was found next to a stream on a nightime search. Clearly having just taken its supper.
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Spotted Keelback (Xenochrophis maculates)


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Spotted Keelback (Xenochrophis maculates)


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Spotted Keelback (Xenochrophis maculatus)


Sabah – Kota Kinabalu


We diverted north to Sabah and spent a few days in and around Kota Kinabalu.
One incident that I feel should be recounted here was a scuffle that was ongoing in the cockpit of one of our internal flights. The Captain could be heard shouting “I’ve told you before Boyer, stop creeping in here and putting on my jacket. Now get to the back with the rest of the Cabin Crew and hand out the Picnic Pockets.” It was quite unsettling.
Most of our time in Sabah was spent around the city, a place we knew well from previous visits. Lots had changed – including a huge new airport terminal, new shopping malls and office blocks. Worst of all the bar that had previously supplied us with cheap Tiger Beer and a seat with a cool ocean breeze, had been pulled down and replaced with nothing.
It was quite something to see how the place had grown but in hindsight we probably should have remained in Sarawak and explored up towards some of the more northerly national parks.



Some of the sights from Sabah.


Large Varanus salvator still busy on Sapi island scavenging around the bins and barbeque area.
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When are we lighting the Barbie?


We did a little night time road cruising around the airport and first beach. The only snake that turned up was a four foot Reticulated Python.
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Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)


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Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)


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Jungle View from the canopy walkway at Poring Hot Springs.


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Tiger Leech in waiting.


Some forms of hunting still a problem at Lok Kawi...
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No Hunting.



Peninsular Malaysia


Taman Negara National Park comes in for a fair bit of criticism. It was consistently the busiest place we visited over all four nights. Our choice was to hire a car at KLIA and drive up to Kuala Tahan for the short boat trip over to Mutiara Taman Negara, rather than the usual long ferry ride. The chalet was comfortable and food good. Getting into the jungle at night was easy and offered the luxury of wooden boardwalks. On the downside, if your timing was out, the chances of bumping into several guided night walks was high. Reptiles were not plentiful but other wildlife was. We both enjoyed the experience of the place.


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Reclaimed. Abandoned car on route to Kuala Tahan.



White-handed Gibbons were heard every morning calling in the distance. We managed to see Slow Loris, Long-tailed Macaque, Wild Boar, Mouse Deer, Giant Red Flying Squirrel, Masked Palm Civet, Hornbills, Broadbills and Fish Eagles amongst others. The weather followed a similar pattern with heavy night time storms. One of which resulted in a hefty tree crashing noisily to earth not 100 yards from our chalet.


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Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) as seen from the bird hide.


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Clouded Monitor (Varanus nebulosus), common around the grounds.



Some night time finds...


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Lichen Huntsman (Heteropoda boiei)


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Lichen Huntsman (Pandercetes sp.)


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Green Tree Snail.


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Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)


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Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)


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Giant Gecko or Green-eyed Gecko (Gekko smithii)


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Giant Gecko or Green-eyed Gecko (Gekko smithii)


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Spotted House Gecko (Gekko monarchus) – three footed variety.


There is opportunity to get out onto the rivers and we spent a great morning cruising up one of the tributaries with a boatman. On the return he cut the engine and drifted down with the current, it was very relaxing and the scenery from the river was stunning.


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Jungle Backwater.


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Tembeling River.




Fraser’s Hill


We arranged two nights at the end of our holiday to include a stay at ‘Stephen’s Place’ on Fraser’s Hill. It simply wasn’t long enough. Both our planned night walks were halted by storms. However, this is clearly one of Malaysia’s top wildlife spots. The whole experience was improved by our hosts and their obvious passion for the area and the wildlife.
Found on the road at night...


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Vertebral Slug Snake (Asthenodipsas vertebralis) Juvenile.


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Vertebral Slug Snake (Asthenodipsas vertebralis) Juvenile


Finally, the inevitable Fraser’s Hill spiders to finish with...


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Coremiocnemis hoggi.


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Behind the Trapdoor.




There is much to see here and, in my opinion, Fraser’s Hill should be one of the first destinations included on any wildlife itinerary. Strange then that it should eventually come as probably our final ever location visited on what we have agreed will be our ultimate visit to this beautiful country.


Special thanks to Hans Breuer and Neil Rowntree for their advice and information.
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Thanks for looking – Ray Hamilton.


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017.
PostPosted: May 16th, 2017, 12:36 pm 
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What a wonderful trip down recent-memory lane. I'm in the middle of writing up my Malaysia trip from Jan/Feb of this year, but obviously I'm far slower than you. We went to many of the same places, and saw many of the same animals. It sounds like your weather might have been somewhat less rainy than mine. You did a great job of mixing non-animal photos in (I always regret that I didn't take enough of those, even when I'm consciously trying to do so).

I was also thoroughly confused by the explanation of accommodations on the Kubah website. I ended up just letting Hans book it for me, but even that had some extra confusing steps involving confirmation. Given the apparently normal uncrowdedness, it seems likely that you could just show up and pay on the spot, but it would sure be a pain if you did that and nothing was available.

It's funny that you found Asthenodipsas on the road at night at Fraser's Hill. Kurt "Orion Mystery" and I found one on a road there also, shortly after Kurt had told me that he almost never saw snakes on the road at night. Did you know that two Asthenodipsas species are now known from Fraser's Hill? One is banded and more arboreal, the other unbanded and more terrestrial. The one we saw on the road was the more arboreal one, go figure. I can't tell from your photos whether your snake is banded or unbanded. You can read the gory details here.

Some ID thoughts:

I think your orange spider from the Kubah Frog Pond is the famous David Bowie Spider, Heteropoda davidbowie.

Frog One from Borneo Highlands looks like Meristogenys to me, but I don't know which species.

Frog Two looks like a very young Chalcorana raniceps, but could be one of the lookalikes.

Frog Three looks like a somewhat older version of Frog Two.

I agree with "I think this is an adult Gonocephalus liogaster".

I think your "Not sure yet on this one" agamid is Phoxophrys nigrilabris.


Thanks for taking the time to write up such an excellent account of your trip!

John


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017.
PostPosted: May 16th, 2017, 1:22 pm 
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Hi Ray,

What a delightful report - memory lane indeed!
Even though i'd already had a sneak peek I still love that Keelback in the Nepenthes!

Neil


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PostPosted: May 16th, 2017, 9:50 pm 
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Hello John.
Thanks for your comments.

I also find it difficult to take photographs of the peripherals of a trip like this. I have an attachment that every so often says in my ear - "That would be a good photo."

With regards to our weather, it was pretty wet. We lost several night walks as the storms came in strongest after dark. Taman Negara and Fraser's Hill were the dampest locations for us. We had booked two nights at Kubah and on the first night I was so keen to get out and see what was about but a big thunder storm moved in. Eventually it eased but there was so much moisture in the air the head torches were next to useless. It was like driving a car in fog with full beam on. Thankfully the second night was clear and lived up to expectations. I did think we would miss the worst of the rainy season by going in March/April but I guess it's not an exact science. (There's nothing more annoying than laying on the bed waiting for the rain to stop and then waking up four hours later wondering why your still fully dressed!)

In respect of booking Kubah accommodation. I know it's not too far out of Kuching but I really didn't want to arrive there and find the rooms were taken (a ridiculous thought now I've seen the place.) After failing to negotiate the on line booking I mentioned it to Hans and he kindly took us to the Sarawak Parks office to try and sort it out. When we got there they couldn't help as the computer system had crashed. By the time we eventually arrived at the gates to Kubah N.P. I still didn't know what, if any, accommodation we had booked. However, it turned out okay in the end.

I wasn't aware that there were two Asthenodipsas species from Fraser's Hill area. I will need to revisit the photos to see what I've got.

Re. ID's
Thanks for your help with these.

I did hope the orange spider at Kubah may be 'davidbowie' but from what I could see the distribution was wrong. Some sources report it as being a West Malaysian species?

Frog Id's - I did consider Chalcorana raniceps for the little green frogs but in the absence of an industrial sized eardrum I dismissed it.

"agamid is Phoxophrys nigrilabris" - Thank You, good shout.

Looking forward to the final installment of your trip report. Ray


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017.
PostPosted: May 16th, 2017, 10:00 pm 
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Thanks Neil,

I'm pleased it brought back some nice memories for you. Once you get back from a good trip it doesn't seem to take long to get back to routine.

The keelback hunting the Nepenthes for frogs was a good moment for us too.

Ray

- Congratulations again on your spine-jawed snake. Amazing!


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017.
PostPosted: May 17th, 2017, 2:05 am 
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“I’ve told you before Boyer, stop creeping in here and putting on my jacket. Now get to the back with the rest of the Cabin Crew and hand out the Picnic Pockets.”

Just spotted this - love it!


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PostPosted: May 17th, 2017, 5:22 am 
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Rags wrote:
I did hope the orange spider at Kubah may be 'davidbowie' but from what I could see the distribution was wrong. Some sources report it as being a West Malaysian species?

My understanding is that it was described from a specimen in Cameron Highlands but is now considered to be widespread. For example, here's an article in a bug journal that lists it in Sabah: http://www.entomoljournal.com/archives/2014/vol2issue5/PartF/68-644.pdf

John


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PostPosted: May 17th, 2017, 6:25 am 
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Thanks John.

The article does indeed list H.davidbowie as found in Sabah. I have also found a reference to it being found in Brunei. Now I've just got to convince myself it's not Thelctiopis modesta.

Is it me or are spiders confusing?


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PostPosted: May 17th, 2017, 6:33 am 
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Ribbit wrote:
Rags wrote:
I did hope the orange spider at Kubah may be 'davidbowie' but from what I could see the distribution was wrong. Some sources report it as being a West Malaysian species?

My understanding is that it was described from a specimen in Cameron Highlands but is now considered to be widespread. For example, here's an article in a bug journal that lists it in Sabah: http://www.entomoljournal.com/archives/2014/vol2issue5/PartF/68-644.pdf

John


Looks less hairy, no...?


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PostPosted: May 17th, 2017, 8:19 am 
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I don't know about the hairiness. The online photos of H. davidbowie vary quite a bit in hair length. Of course, they might not all be identified correctly.

John


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PostPosted: May 17th, 2017, 8:22 am 
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Rags wrote:
Thanks John.

The article does indeed list H.davidbowie as found in Sabah. I have also found a reference to it being found in Brunei. Now I've just got to convince myself it's not Thelctiopis modesta.

Is it me or are spiders confusing?


I found a few online references that claim that T. modesta is the same species as H. davidbowie, but I don't know whom to believe. Those darn spiders!

John


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PostPosted: May 19th, 2017, 6:16 am 
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Ribbit wrote:
Rags wrote:
Thanks John.

The article does indeed list H.davidbowie as found in Sabah. I have also found a reference to it being found in Brunei. Now I've just got to convince myself it's not Thelctiopis modesta.

Is it me or are spiders confusing?


I found a few online references that claim that T. modesta is the same species as H. davidbowie, but I don't know whom to believe. Those darn spiders!

John


Oh no! Just when I thought I was getting my head around things...


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PostPosted: May 20th, 2017, 12:10 am 
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Wonderful post! The "no hunting" sign was the cherry on the ice cream!


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PostPosted: May 20th, 2017, 6:22 am 

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wonderful overview, thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia - East and West. 2017
PostPosted: May 22nd, 2017, 6:34 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:30 am
Posts: 377
Location: U.K.
Thanks Hans and 'dendrelaphis' for your comments.


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